John Potess

Discomfort is a Compass for Your Best Life

How to experience the most interesting stories

explore | grow | travel
March 16th, 2021

I have a good friend, David, that always has the most interesting stories.

His journeys are filled with chance encounters, near misses, and unexpected complications, and are always full of a cast of characters that often pop into other stories months or even years apart.

David is a great storyteller. But I knew his adventures weren’t just a product of his storytelling. Something about the way he lives his life opens him up to these authentic interactions and opportunities for spontaneous discoveries.

I had always been so wondering how he does this, and the more we talked and spent time together, I began to see what was happening.

Whenever David is presented with a new experience or situation, even if he feels hesitant or uncomfortable in this new situation, he still pushes through and engages fully with whatever this experience has to offer.

This made me begin to analyze how I approached new situations or experiences that might be uncomfortable for me.

What I found was a game-changer for me.

Often when I would be confrontend with a new situation that is out of my comfort zone, I would just disengage and move back into my comfort zone - and I wasn't even aware I was doing this!

Typing it out now it's obvious, but this realization was radical for me. I was unconciously preventing myself from experiencing all that life has to offer.

So I decided to make a change.

Now whenever a new situation or opportunity presents itself. If I feel any resistance to engage because it makes me uncomfortable or it's something I normally wouldn't do because of some type of social pressure, I immediately commit myself to doing that thing.

Of course, I’m not saying to do things that are actually dangerous - and everyone has a different risk tolerance for what they think is legitimately dangerous.

For me, in most cases this feeling of discomfort comes up when it’s a new social interaction or putting myself in a situation where I don’t know how to do something or could make a fool of myself or I have no pre-existing structure of how to interact in the new situation.

These irrational fears are almost always NOT actually protecting me from something dangerous, but are just keeping me from putting myself out there and experiencing new things.

But spoiler alert, experiencing new things and the desire to learn is a key aspect of humanity and self-fulfillment.

Before, I would go out into the world with a purpose to do specific things - pointed actions and experiences to find.

For example, go to this local cafe, go explore this neighborhood, go surfing here. Don't get me wrong, having specific things I want to do is great, and I of course still do that - it's not feasible to just wing everything.

But the real life-explosion possibilities are in the in-between moments of those specific things that you want to purposefully seek out.

Those were the moments areas I wasn't fully engaging with - unaware of the self-sabotage that I was unconciously committing every time I came across an opportunity out of my comfort zone.

Hacking your discomfort zone

My unconcious would guide me back to my perceived safety - to the known experiences, and protect me from the unknown - preventing me from experiencing spontaneous, new things.

My subconcious was leading me away from opportunities to live fully.

But here's the gold: If I'm naturally led away from new experiences by feelings of discomfort - then these same feelings of discomfort can also be used as a compass of what I should intentionlally engage with to experience new things.

Follow the discomfort.

How many times have you seen a group of people and decided to not engage.

Or someone invites you to do something spontaneously and you decide to opt out just because it wasn’t on your plan for the day or it doesn’t seem like something you would normally do.

Maybe this is just an introvert thing, but for me using discomfort as a compass has transformed my life.

Whenever a situation comes up that could make me feel discomfort. I have two options - give into fear and retreat back to my comfort zone, or enter into a new adventure.

Now that I'm aware what my two options are and that I have the power to choose, the choice is easy.

And it makes so much sense.

I think this mind-set / lifestyle shift can be massively transformative in your everyday life.

It opens up the possibilities of your day into an infinite new adventure.

A walk through the neighborhood can be the catalyst for exploring a new part of your city, making a new friend.

Who knows, maybe you follow the path of the unknown from your local coffee shop all the way to a beach bonfire party that lasts till dawn.

Each day you have the opportunity to use your feelings of discomfort as a guide to a new adventure. It will direct you towards experiences you could have never planned, and these spontaneous experiences are almost always the most interesting.

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